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Heimskringla

The Chronicle of The Kings of Norway

Part 32 - Of Aslak Hane

It so happened once, that King Sigurd sat in a gloomy mood among many worthy men. It was Friday evening, and the kitchen-master asked what meat should be made ready.

The king replies,

"What else but flesh-meat?"

And so harsh were his words that nobody dared to contradict him, and all were ill at ease. Now when people prepared to go to table, dishes of warm flesh-meat were carried in; but all were silent, and grieved at the king's illness. Before the blessing was pronounced over the meat, a man called Aslak Hane spoke.

He had been a long time with King Sigurd on his journey abroad, and was not a man of any great family; and was small of stature, but fiery. When he perceived how it was, and that none dared to accost the king, he asked,

"What is it, sire, that is smoking on the dish before you?"

The king replies,

"What do you mean, Aslak? what do you think it is?"

Aslak:

"I think it is flesh-meat; and I would it were not so."

The king:

"But if it be so, Aslak?"

He replied,

"It would be vexatious to know that a gallant king, who has gained so much honour in the world, should so forget himself.

When you rose up out of Jordan, after bathing in the same waters as God himself, with palm-leaves in your hands, and the cross upon your breast, it was something else you promised, sire, than to eat flesh-meat on a Friday. If a meaner man were to do so, he would merit a heavy punishment.

This royal hall is not so beset as it should be, when it falls upon me, a mean man, to challenge such an act."

The king sat silent, and did not partake of the meat; and when the time for eating was drawing to an end, the king ordered the flesh dishes to be removed and other food was brought in, such as it is permitted to use. When the meal-time was almost past, the king began to be cheerful, and to drink.

People advised Aslak to fly, but he said he would not do so.

"I do not see how it could help me; and to tell the truth, it is as good to die now that I have got my will, and have prevented the king from committing a sin. It is for him to kill me if he likes."

Towards evening the king called him, and said,

"Who set thee on, Aslak Hane, to speak such free words to me in the hearing of so many people?"

"No one, sire, but myself."

The king:

"Thou wouldst like, no doubt, to know what thou art to have for such boldness; what thinkest thou it deserves."

He replies,

"If it be well rewarded, sire, I shall be glad; but should it be otherwise, then it is your concern."

Then the king said,

"Smaller is thy reward than thou hast deserved. I give thee three farms. It has turned out, what could not have been expected, that thou hast prevented me from a great crime, — thou, and not the lendermen, who are indebted to me for so much good."

And so it ended.

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